Harry Cox – Hopewell Barber (1909-1945)

Harry Cox was a Hopewell institution as a barber on Seminary Avenue for over 35 years, from 1909 to his death in 1945. He was a farm laborer at age 16, became an apprentice barber at 20, and opened his own shop at age 21. He expanded his shop multiple times, and in 1920 bought the adjacent building at the corner of Broad Street.

Seminary Avenue Historic Walking Tour: Sat. May 21 – Mon. May 21

See References for the tour, including the Handout, plus briefs on Seminary Ave. and East Broad / South Greenwood, and on individual properties.

== Read the full history brief on 6 Seminary Avenue – Harry Cox, Barber (PDF) ==

Harry L. Cox

Harry Cox – 1914 Hopewell Herald Progress Edition

Harry Lester Cox (1885 – 1945) was a Hopewell institution as a barber on Seminary Avenue from 1909 to his death in 1945. He was a farm laborer at age 16, became an apprentice barber at 20, and then opened his own shop after marrying at age 21. After only three years in business, the Hopewell Herald newspaper reported that the shop held 108 shaving mugs for his regular customers (see earlier post).

Cox worked hard – open long hours and weekends and holidays – and worked even harder during the Lindbergh kidnapping frenzy, open longer hours to provide daily shaves for the hordes of visiting press corps. Among other activities, he also managed the Hope Theater down the street.

He expanded his shop several times, and after ten years in business, he was able to buy the adjacent property at the corner of East Broad Street. His legacy continued to his son, Raymond Cox, who also was a barber and a next-generation town institution there.

In the 1900 U.S. Census, at age 15, Cox was listed in the living with his parents on a farm in the Hopewell area, with his father working as a “farmer” (at age 75), and Harry as a “farm laborer.” By the 1905 N. J. Census, at age 20, Cox was working as a barber in Hopewell.

Harry Cox at his barber shop on Seminary Ave. – early 1900s [HVHS]

In April 1906, at age 21, Cox married Larena Morrell. That July, Cox started building his new barber shop on Seminary avenue. It was described as his ” Tonsorial Parlor” in newspaper ads, and “Shaving Parlor” on the building.

Cox built his barber shop was built at 6 Seminary Ave. It was expanded several times, but was gone by the late 1950s. The location is now a driveway between the back of the corner building at 21 East Broad and 8-10 Seminary next door.

[HH 1906-07]

By his third anniversary in business in 1909, after starting in a small shop with one chair, “with hard work and digest attention to business,” Cox had enlarged the shop, with three chairs, and “108 shaving mugs on his shelves.” The shop also had added a journeyman barber and a helper, and an electric vibrator and electric fan. Also in 1909, Cox completed a new addition to the rear of the shop as a “waiting and reading room,” which made it “the largest and finest in town.”

In 1920, at age 35, Cox bought the corner property, 21 East Broad, including his barber shop and the A&P grocery store on East Broad. His family was living there in the 1930 and 1940 Census.

In 1920, Cox also built another addition to the shop, “and installed another pool table.”

By 1920, Cox also took over management of the Hope Theatre (16 Seminary) with Albert Lewis. Then in 1922 Cox and W. G. Lowe rented the theater, only to have it damaged in a fire that summer.

Cox & Cray

Harry Cox also helped train and partnered with other local barbers, as the business became Cox & Cray in the early 1920s, and then transferred to Cronce & Cray after Harry Cox’s death in 1945.

[HH 3/18/1925]

By 1923, Cox partnered with Harry B. Cray to form Cox & Cray, based in the shop at 6 Seminary. That year they made “extensive improvements” to the interior of the building, including a new large mirror, two new chairs “of the latest design,” and “a new fountain in the center.” The one room also was made into two with a “lattice partition and archway.”

In 1925, Cox & Cray advertised their Beauty Parlor as open for business, with a private entrance for the ladies. Cox also was quoted as saying that he bobs ladies hair and guarantees satisfaction. “If you’re not satisfied, he will return the amputated hair.”

Cox was busy in 1932 as the press descended on Hopewell after the Lindbergh kidnapping, described as the “town barber who has shaved more reporters and photographers than he ever knew existed.”

In the 1940 Census, at age 56, Cox is listed as working 60 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. His schooling is listed as elementary school, 7th grade.

In 1944, Cox also was the nighttime contact for emergency calls to the Hopewell Fire Department in those times of limited phone service (daytime calls went to Cutter’s drug store).

Harry Cox died in 1945 at age 59. He was remembered as a charter member of the Sourland Mountain Sporting Club, a director of the Point Pleasant Fishing Pier, and a member of the Hopewell Fire Department and the Calvary Baptist Church.

After the death of Harry Cox in 1945, his son Raymond Cox, also a barber, helped with the business, and then moved to Pennington and later started own shop next door in the corner building that his father had bought at 21 East Broad.

[HH 12/20/1950]

Meanwhile, Harry Cray partnered with George Cronce to form Cronce & Cray. They continued to operate at 6 Seminary through at least 1953, before moving next door to 8 Seminary by 1959.

The original Harry Cox barber shop building was presumably demolished around 1959.

== Read the full history brief on 6 Seminary Avenue – Harry Cox, Barber (PDF) ==

== Read the history brief on Seminary Ave. / Hopewell Borough Barbers (1890s) (PDF) ==

Thanks to many contributors for kindly sharing their memories, information and images.

We welcome additional information and materials on Harry Cox, local barbers, and Seminary Avenue. In particular, does anyone know what happened to the original Cox barber shop building, or have details on Raymond Cox, and the timeline of his multiple businesses in Hopewell and Pennington – barber shops, luncheonette, and antique stores?

1 thought on “Harry Cox – Hopewell Barber (1909-1945)

  1. […] Seminary Ave. / Hopewell Borough Barbers (1890s) – Brief (PDF) […]

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